In 1969 I was 15. I was unexceptional. I liked the new music and hung with some hip friends. Well, we tried to be “hip”. I read Hermann Hesse, Tom Wolfe and Aldous Huxley – ordered my copy of “Rolling Stone” from the newsagents – tucked the “International Times” under my arm, strummed an acoustic guitar, wrote poetry, and tried that new fangled food called yoghurt.
My teachers saw me as a no-hoper so I planned my escape only to find that my end of year exam results meant I could have stayed on after all. But too late, I was gone to a job and part-time education. I became a Despatch Clerk by day, doodling at my desk to while away the boredom.
By night I read and wrote poetry; Ginsberg, McGough, Patten, Walt Whitman. At 18 I could see that Despatch Clerking was not my future.
By now I had a portfolio and more poetry than you could shake a stick at. I needed something else. One cold dark winter’s night a Careers Officer told me to go to Teacher Training College as he dashed out of the door to go home. Me, an interruption in his meagre existence. Thanks for the interest. Anyway, I did. Art, as it happened – I couldn’t read fast enough for English Literature. I enjoyed those days. I became a) an artist and b) a teacher (of sorts) and c) socially cocky confident. I still wrote poetry.
I left college after qualifying as an Art Teacher to teach 9 – 13 year olds with a special interest in the Teaching of Reading. Honest. Busted and broke I got a job in a warehouse. I created wire sculptures in the attic, painted water colours, wrote whatever – then got a job in the Sales Office – then Sales Office Boss – and hey, presto – I was in a suit, company car, house and family. The artist packed up his paints for a rainy day and put away his guitar. Somehow the inspiration became a little more intangible.
I became a professional at what I did. I built a career in company-land. I was good, if I say so myself, though never really comfortable with the laddishness of management in a Butch Man’s World. They all seemed like philistines to me. So when the drinking got really heavy and the dirty talk reached the gutter I’d slip away and thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t like them. I wasn’t about to play the game.
A lot of water has flowed under my bridge (and desk).
I, like Sitting Bull, have seen many summers.
Now the fighting and the struggling is over and my 3 wonderful children have forged their own lives and I’m proud of each of them.
For a long while I have wrestled with my change of circumstance, my change of purpose. It is not essential that I provide anymore. That I rise each day to hunt and gather. My purpose, no longer essential, has become undefined.
Mrs. Monkey has seen this, for she is wise. It is Mrs. Monkey who is strong and faces the dangers of the jungle, or the prairie, depending upon your choice of metaphor.
It is with her blessing that she tells me to go and be the artist that I always wanted to be. She biddeth, “Go, write music, poetry, paint, photograph – create good things that are pleasing to the eye and the ear. For I will provide to free thee from this bondage that thou wearest. For thou hast paid thy dues.” And then, as an afterthought, “Man.”
I feel like 16 again and I love her for that.